Book Reviews 2006 (33-34)

Two books this time.
Blood and Iron, by Elizabeth Bear
One Lamp, Alternate History Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon Van Gelder

My thirty third book of the year is the first fantasy novel from my friend the Writer Elizabeth “Sarah” Bear, Blood and Iron.
Blood and Iron: A Novel of the Promethean Age
Blood and Iron is a Modern Faerie novel much in the same subgenre pioneered by War for the Oaks, Steel Rose, Tinker, and the California Elves novels of Mercedes Lackey and friends, but Bear has some tricks up her sleeve. And it’s set in New York City! (and Connecticut, too, to be fair).
In fact, the novel has a sort of beat to it, with things familiar and expected in a Faerie meets modern Earth sort of setting, but she likes to throw the wicked curveball in a sort of beat. “Okay, Okay. Waitaminute!” For example, the “Merlin” that the two sides in the War are looking for is a woman.
I love the world building and the use of Faerie, and some of the surprises Bear throws us in the course of the book. I was definitely entertained throughout the novel.
I do think, though, that a few loose ends here and there are a bit untidy, and some of the minor characters in some respects seem even more interesting than the major ones. And, even before a major plot twist, I think the main character Seeker is, for a slave, treated maybe a bit too well IMO by her fellow faerie and her antagonists.
These are relatively minor criticisms, though. Lots of wordplay, references, and evocative use of language shows that Bear had lots of fun writing this book. She wrote this book because she wanted to, rather than she needed to, and that definitely comes across on the page in spades.
And I definitely look forward to the sequel.

My thirty fourth book is One Lamp, Alternate History Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon Van Gelder.
One Lamp
As many anthologies, the anthology can be hit or miss, and rise or fall on the strength of the stories in it.
This one has some stories I didn’t care for and frankly skipped, even in my beloved sub genre of AH, but there are some classics here which aren’t reprinted and available enough, like “Two Dooms” by Kornbluth (Axis conquer America), “The Last Article” by Turtledove (Gandhi vs the Nazis) and Delenda Est by Anderson(Time Travellers cause Carthage to defeat Rome).
Other than those, however, I think the quality of the selected stories is uneven, and so I wouldn’t really recommend the book save for connisseurs of Alternate History.